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A Question and an Observation

Discussion in 'Campfire Chat - General Discussions' started by Leah's Choice, Aug 31, 2009.

  1. Leah's Choice

    Leah's Choice Cadet

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    Does anyone know what "Greek Fire" is? I ran across that term while reading this afternoon, and I never heard it before. It was something that was evidently thrown on buildings during the war.

    Another thing, did you know that the well known hymn, Amazing Grace was written by an Englishman named John Newton, and that before he became a Christian (or so I heard on a YouTube video) he was the captain of a slave ship? The melody listed as "unknown" is thought to have come from American slavery.

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  3. Elennsar

    Elennsar Lt. Colonel

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    As best as I can tell, Greek fire in classic and medieval times was roughly equivalant to napalm and probably oil based (though the recipe was secret). I'm not entirely sure about the Civil War.

    As for the hymn - I dimly recall reading something like that. Good for him in recognizing "Hey. What am I doing. This is wrong."

    Its one of the most magnificient hymns in all of Christianity, and there are several stiring ones.

    Some either sung extensively by black slaves or started by black slaves.

    "Swing low, Sweet Chariot" for instance, I believe.
  4. ole

    ole Brev. Brig. Gen'l Retired Moderator

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    Don't know what's in Greek Fire except that it was used in naval battle way back when.

    Confederate agents used what they called Greek Fire when they attempted to set fire to New York. The plan was a great idea: set fire to New York and most all of it would have burned down. But the usual SNAFUs popped up and they were unsuccessful.
  5. TxSouthpaw

    TxSouthpaw Private

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    Leah - I had always heard that the writer of Amazing Grace was a converted slaver. And then later I heard that the story was apocryphal. Now I don't know either way.
  6. CChartreux

    CChartreux Cadet

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    You all might find this interesting:


    http://lcweb2.loc.gov/diglib/ihas/loc.natlib.ihas.200149085/default.html


    It sounds to me (according to the article, anyway), that while Newton eventually was against slavery (having once been a slaver), the song, evidently, is not directly related to that. At least that's what I'm getting. That might explain why some feel the story is not true. Sounds to me like what's not true is simply that the song was not written directly (or specifically) about converting from being a slaver to an abolitionist.

    Alas...like many things in life...there's certain symmetry to the thing anyway!






    CC
  7. M E Wolf

    M E Wolf Brigadier General Moderator

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    O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XI/1 [S# 12]
    APRIL 5- MAY 4, 1862.-- Siege of Yorktown, Va.
    No. 22. -- Reports of Brig. Gen. William P. Barry, U. S. Army, Chief of Artillery Army of the Potomac, of the siege.
    [excerpt]
    Thursday, April 24.--- One hundred and seventy 30-pounder shell, ten 30-pounder shot, thirty-three 30-pounder shell with Greek fire; forty-eight 8-inch carcasses, twenty.six 10-inch carcasses transported from landing to depot; five 30-pounder Parrott guns transported from landing to Battery No. 2.
    Battery No. 2. Five 30.pounder Parrott guns placed in position, six platforms laid, and five hundred rounds of 30-pounder ammunition placed in magazine. This battery is now ready for service. Eight 13-inch sea-coast mortars were transferred from the transport to canal-boats, and will to-night at high tide be towed into Wormley's Creek. Two 13-inch mortars and one 200-pounder Parrott gun will be transferred to-morrow, and, weather permitting, will also be towed into the creek. A quantity of 10-inch shell and 100-pounder Parrott projectiles are being landed from transports.
    Battery No. 5. Six platforms laid. The guns will be in position to-night and by daybreak ready for service.
    [excerpt]
    Wednesday, April 30.--Battery No. 1. Opened fire at 2 o'clock p.m. with the five 100-pounders and one 200-pounder. The fire was first directed at the wharf at Yorktown, where the enemy were busily engaged discharging six or seven schooners. These vessels were soon driven off. The enemy's large barbette gun was directed upon us at intervals of fifteen or twenty minutes. Two of the 100-pounders were turned in that direction with apparent good effect. The fire of the 200-pounder was directed upon the vessels, which after leaving Yorktown wharf took refuge behind Gloucester Point. This fire was very effective. The enemy's fire was well directed, but the protection afforded by the battery effective, and their fire caused us no casualties. Battery No. 1 gives us complete control of the enemy's water batteries, wharves, and Gloucester. The expenditure was as follows, viz: Solid shot, five from 200-pounder, one from 100-pounder; shell (percussion), sixteen, all from 100-pounder; shell (time fuse), thirteen, all from 100pounder; shell (filled with Greek fire), four, all from 100-pounder. The performance of the guns was excellent, as was also that of the iron carriages and chassis. Most of the percussion shell failed to explode, and no observable effect was produced by the Greek fire.
    [excerpt]
    Cheeseman's Landing. The following material was landed, viz: Three 10-inch sea-coast mortars, ten do. beds, four 20-pounder Parrott guns and carriages, four Whitworth guns, fifteen 13-inch shell with Greek fire, a quantity of platforms, implements, &c. I beg to urge the necessity of immediate further repairs upon the road near Cheeseman's Landing and in front of General Hooker's division (Yorktown road). It is impossible to haul heavy guns over that portion of the road.
    =========================
    O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXVIII/1 [S# 46]
    Operations On The Coasts Of South Carolina And Georgia, And In Middle And East Florida.--June 12-December 31, 1863.
    No. 2.--Report of Maj. Gen. Quincy A. Gillmore, U.S. Army, commanding Department of the South, with congratulatory orders.
    [excerpt]
    Greek fire.
    160. The composition of Short's solidified Greek fire, the only incendiary material called Greek fire which we attempted to use, I am unable to give.
    Captain Mordecai reports as follows upon it:
    It was furnished in tin tubes, closed at one end, about 3 inches long and 3¼ inches in diameter. These tubes were covered with one layer of paper, such as is commonly used for cartridges. The paper was folded down over the ends of the tube, that part covering the open end having upon it a priming of powder and coal-tar.
    The directions for using this fire were furnished from the manufactory, and were as follows: "As many of the cases containing the composition must be dropped into the shell, with as much powder as can possibly be shaken among them." After the failure of shell filled in this manner to give satisfactory results, Mr. Short visited Morris Island. He altered the manner of filling the shell, putting several inches of powder in the shell before inserting the cases. He also covered some cases with several thicknesses of thick cartridge paper, and others with several layers of muslin.
    Into all the shell filled by him, powder was first placed.
    «3 R R--VOL XXVIII, PT I»
    To the best of my knowledge, the only cases in which shell were fired containing the solidified Greek, fire are enumerated below:
    Projectileshell Mannerin whichfilled Charge Fuse Elevation(degrees) Remarks.
    10 200-pounder 20 pieces in each and 3 pounds powder. 18 Per. 32 Well.
    5 do 30 pieces in each and 3 pounds powder. 18 Per. 32 Burst in gun.
    1 100-pounder 24 pieces in each and 2 pounds powder. 10 Per. 35 Do.
    1 do do 10 Per. 35
    1 30-pounder 12 pieces in each and 1 ½ pounds powder 3 1/4 Per. 30 Well.
    7 200-pounder. Full, and powder shaken in 16 Per. 12 All burst in gun, or shortly after leaving it.
    1 10-inch mortar Filled by Mr. Short 1 10" 45 Struck before the fuse burned out.
    1 do do 1 10" 45 Well.
    1 30-pounder Filled by Mr. Short; cases covered with one thickness of paper. 3 5" 3 1/2 Did not burst.
    do 3 5" 5 Burst 150 yards from gun
    1 do do 3 5" 5 Burst 5".
    1 do Filled by Mr. Short and covered with several thicknesses of paper. 3 5" 5 Do.
    1 do do 3 12" 12 Burst 12"
    1 do do 3 12" 12 Did not burst
    1 do Filled by Mr. Short and covered with layers of muslin.
    1 do do 3 5" 5 Burst 5".
    1 do do 3 5" 5 Burst 5"; tumbled
    4 do do 3 Per. 12 Burst in gun.
    1 do do 3 Per. 12 Do.
    This solidified Greek fire in intensity of heat is surpassed by the common port fire used in artillery.
    =====================================================
    continued
  8. M E Wolf

    M E Wolf Brigadier General Moderator

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    O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXVIII/2 [S# 47]
    Correspondence, Orders, And Returns Relating To Operations On The Coasts Of South Carolina And Georgia, And In Middle And East Florida, From June 12 To December 31, 1863.
    CONFEDERATE CORRESPONDENCE, ETC.--#13
    CHARLESTON, S. C.,
    October 29, 1863.
    General G. W. SMITH,
    Etowah, Ga.:
    MY DEAR SMITH: Yours of the 20th instant has been received. I much regret to hear of the difficulties you encounter in the procuring of coal, &c., for we are much in need of shot and shell, especially 8-inch and 10-inch of the latter for columbiads, also 10-inch mortar shell. The enemy's land and naval batteries have again opened on Sumter, which, it seems is not yet entirely harmless, as they pretended. I hope it will keep them employed for several months longer. They fired 2 shells day before yesterday into the city (4 ½ miles), but did no damage. I would not be surprised if their Greek-fire turns out to be a Yankee humbug. I hope soon to be able to return their compliment with a little "southern liquid fire" which will make them open their eyes.
    With my kind regards to Mrs. S.,
    I remain, yours, very truly,
    G. T. BEAUREGARD.
    -------------------------------------------
    CHARLESTON, S.C.,
    November 12, 1863.
    General JOSEPH R. ANDERSON,
    Richmond, Va.:
    DEAR GENERAL: I thank you for your kind note of the 9th instant, and the slips of paper from the Scientific American. My ordnance officer here had already tried some experiments with the celebrated Yankee Greek-fire, taken from some of their unexploded shells, and found it to be a mere humbug; one pint of water extinguished the quantity held by one shell. Moreover, the 12 or 14 shells which have fallen in the city fired only one house, which was extinguished with one bucket of water. What a nation of humbugs and humbuggers; and how incorrigible they are, always passing from one absurdity to another still worse! I sincerely hope we have parted company with them forever.
    Gillmore seems to be at a loss what to do next. I believe he has got to the end of this rope. He will probably soon commence pulling at another, with which I trust he will hang himself.
    In haste, yours, very truly,
    G. T. BEAUREGARD.
    P.S.--I am in possession of a "liquid fire" which will make the Yanks open their eyes whenever I commence using it against their encampments.
    -----
    O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXVIII/2 [S# 47]
    Correspondence, Orders, And Returns Relating To Operations On The Coasts Of South Carolina And Georgia, And In Middle And East Florida, From June 12 To December 31, 1863.
    UNION CORRESPONDENCE, ETC.--#2
    WAR DEPARTMENT,
    Washington City, D.C., August 5, 1863.
    Brig. Gen. J. W. RIPLEY,
    Chief of Ordnance, Washington, D.C.:
    SIR: The Secretary of War directs that you will at once purchase and turn over to the Quartermaster's Department, for shipment to General Gillmore, commanding the Department of the South, 40 gross of Mr. Short's Greek-fire, to be used in the operations before Charleston.
    Very respectfully, sir, your obedient servant,
    JAS. A. HARDIE,
    Assistant Adjutant-General.
    -----
    O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XLV/2 [S# 94]
    UNION CORRESPONDENCE, ORDERS, AND RETURNS RELATING TO OPERATIONS IN KENTUCKY, SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA, TENNESSEE, MISSISSIPPI, ALABAMA, AND NORTH GEORGIA, FROM DECEMBER 1, 1864, TO JANUARY 23, 1865.(*)--#4
    HEADQUARTERS NORTHERN DEPARTMENT,
    Cincinnati, Ohio, December 6, 1864.
    Brig. Gen. E. D. TOWNSEND,
    Assistant Adjutant-General U. S. Army:
    GENERAL: I have the honor to forward herewith a copy of am letter dated 3d instant, just received from Lieut. Col. B. H. Hill, commanding the District of Michigan, as it contains information of importance to all of our frontier bordering upon Canada. The information has been furnished by one of our most reliable detectives, and unusual confidence may be placed in it. A few days since advices of similar import were received by me. From the letter it will be seen that refugees and deserters from the rebel Confederacy are engaged in the manufacture of Greek fire at Windsor in Canada, to facilitate their incendiary purposes. With regard to attacks from armed bodies of rebels, I feel much less apprehensive than from individual efforts to burn and plunder our cities, as my means of information are such that I hope to be able to anticipate the former. It is almost unnecessary for me to add that I have enjoined unceasing vigilance and activity on the part of the military and civil authorities throughout my command.
    Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
    JOSEPH HOOKER,
    Major-general, Commanding.
    -------
    HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN,
    Detroit, Mich., December 3, 1864.
    Capt. C. H. POTTER,
    Asst. Adjt. Gen., Hdqrs. Norther, Dept., Cincinnati, Ohio:
    SIR: I have the honor to report that from information I have received I am satisfied that very extensive preparations are being made in Canada for burning not only cities on the lakes, but others; and it is very necessary that great precaution and vigilance should be observed everywhere. I have the assurance that Greek fire is being prepared in Windsor, Buffalo, Cleveland, and this city will be the principal cities to be burned, and there will be armed attempts to rob and plunder; Cincinnati and Louisville are also mentioned. I am also informed that by some means a large number of rebel soldiers have been introduced into Canada; some, it is said, have been furloughed, and have made their way through the lines. I have at this time very excellent means of obtaining information, and the only apprehension I have is that the persons in my employ may fail me at the last moment. In this city I have called the attention of the hotel keepers to the necessity of observing great vigilance in regard to their guests, and the hotels are daily visited by a secret agent in my employ.
    I am, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
    B. H. HILL,
    Lieut. Col. Fifth U. S Artillery, Comdg. District of Michigan.
    -----
    Medical/Surgical History--Part III, Volume II
    Chapter XII.--Wounds And Complications.
    Firearms And Their Projectiles
    FIG. 384.--Bullet with guiding (?) attachment; actual size. Spec. 4610.
    A peculiar missile, said to have been thrown into the prison camp at Johnson's Island with a message attached, is shown in FIGURE 384. It is a conoidal bullet with a spade-shaped appendage twice its length, designed to render the course of the projectile more accurate. It is believed to be a pattern rejected by the Ordnance Department about the year 1860; its history is not positively known.
    "Greek fire" for incendiary purposes was employed, probably by both sides in a few instances. It was used at the siege of Charleston, in 1863;(1) but its employment led to such representations respecting its barbarity that the use of it was but little resorted to, if at all, during the remainder of the war.
    A small quantity of composition, a portion of the contents of a fire-ball used by the Confederates and captured at Morris Island, was contributed to the Army Medical Museum by Acting Assistant Surgeon H. K. Neff. It is specimen 572 of the Surgical Section, and is described as "a mixture of nitre, sulphur, and antimony, and when used is made into a paste with sand and rosin. The missile was wrapped on the outside with three layers of heavy canvas, tarred and pitched without, with a network of twine over it. The bottom was cast-iron covered only with pitch. Within the ball was a tin cup to which the canvas and twine were fastened, and which contained the composition, and near the base was embedded a 6-pounder shell. Three pins in the top are withdrawn before loading in the gun to allow ignition previous to its exit from the muzzle. The composition burns slowly with intense heat. The missile was designed to be thrown from a mortar." Except in the instances quoted it is doubtful if the use of this agent was at all common.
    =======
    Navy O.R.-- Series II--Volume 1
    Investigation Of [Confederate] Navy Department. pp. 521-551
    [excerpt]
    Lieutenant KENNON. I undertook to fit out the ordnance, and I did it. There was not a cartridge bag furnished to the McRae. I commenced by making cartridge bags for her, and from that time I found I had everything to do. I commenced with light ordnance. I had to make the models for all the sabots, shell and shell shot, and, in fact, everything that is used in a navy ordnance. I also had shells made for muskets and Mississippi rifles, as well as hand grenades, filled with guncotton and Greek fire. I had also made what are termed liquid shells for rifles and other guns. These I invented myself, together with the rockets. These things they stopped me from making on account of the expense of getting them up. I don't know that any of the musket shells were made after I left New Orleans. I know that some of the hand grenades, some of the liquid shells, and the primers which I had made there were furnished to the Army. I furnished thousands of munitions of different kinds to the Army. Different kinds of shells which I ordered to be made were also furnished them. These were the shells that I was subsequently prevented from making. I found when I afterwards returned to New Orleans that the only 13-inch shells they had were those made by me in August and used at Fort Jackson. I had no assistance at that time and, of course, that made the duty doubly onerous upon me. Everything being scattered throughout the city, I was compelled to move constantly about to different points to see that all was going on well. Sometimes officers would come from the
    lake for supplies, and sometimes from the river, and I had to attend to all. The Government, however, ordered me away, because of the heavy expenditures I had incurred. I was ordered to a subordinate capacity--that of second lieutenant---when my juniors were left in command of other ships--men who were not even lieutenants, and that because I had taken on my own shoulders the responsibility to spend all this money in New Orleans. I knew if I allowed myself to be tied down by the rules of the office, I never would have 'done anything. I told the commodore, if he authorized me, I would take the responsibility of doing what I thought was necessary: and I did it. For this the Secretary condemned me. When I returned to New Orleans some four months after I left they just cast one gun of the number that I had ordered some six months previous. One was cast there, and then all stopped. The Government became displeased because I purchased block tin at 25 cents that was afterwards sold at about $5. I also bought flannel at from 30 to 40 cents a yard that was sold afterwards at from $2 to $2.50. I got zinc at about 20 cents for making powder tanks. This zinc went up afterwards to 68 and 87 cents. I mention these things to let you see my reason for purchasing so many articles at that time. At first, when I made the contract for guns the hire of laborers was very much less than it was afterwards. I had guns made then for 11 cents a pound. The Government had subsequently to pay 13 cents. The first contract was made in August, soon after I went to New Orleans.
    ============================================
    Navy O.R.-- Series I--Volume 3 [S# 3]
    Operations Of The Cruisers--Union.
    From April 1, 1864, To December 30, 1865. pp. 453-500
    GUELPH [ONTARIO, CANADA],
    October 17, 1864.
    MY DEAR SIR: Everything is going ahead finely, and I anticipate having the things finished early, perhaps this week; anyhow in the fore part of next. Probably I will be in Toronto on Wednesday. Be about, so that I can run you off down here; and I presume you will like this place. Has Colonel T. [Thompson] been able to procure the article? What about the G. F. [Greek fire]? I forgot to ask you if the composition does not require some time to saturate before it can be used. Inform. Please also send me a dozen of the finest waterproof caps along of Mr. McDonald's parcel. They are for the troops. Mr. M. will likely acquaint you that an alteration has been made in the Gren [sic] form. I will show you a pattern when we meet.
    Sincerely, yours,
    BENNETT BURLEY.
    Dr. S. B. [JAMES T.] BATES,
    Toronto.
    ==============================================
    Navy O.R.-- Series I--Volume 25 [S# 25]
    Naval Forces On Western Waters.
    From May 18, 1863, To February 29, 1864. pp. 508-554
    Solidified Greek fire.--Rear-Admiral D. D. Porter's official report.
    U. S. MISSISSIPPI SQUADRON,
    Flagship Black Hawk, off Vicksburg, July 13, 1863.
    SIR: I have had but little opportunity to try Mr. Short's Greek fire, but what I have seen of it proves its excellence. I only had a small quantity, and used it against Vicksburg, setting the town on fire in three places in one night, burning up a considerable quantity of stores, and the houses burned to the ground. I see no reason why it should not burn up a ship instantly; the fire is very intense, it is perfectly safe, put up in shell or tin cases, and I recommend it to be sent on shipboard in shells filled with it and powder together. When the shells burst in the air large flakes of fire descend, and, falling on the houses, must set them on fire. I set fire to some pieces of the composition and then covered it up with wet sand, but it burned to the end without being injured.
    Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
    DAVID D. PORTER,
    Acting Rear-Admiral, Commanding Mississippi Squadron.
    Commander HENRY A. WISE,
    Acting Chief of Bureau of Ordnance.
    -----
    -----
    Directions for using Greek fire in shells of any size.
    First put into the shell about the quarter of the bursting charge, then drop on top of the powder as many of the Greek-fire cases as will easily slide down the inside of the shell; when full, fill up with powder as long as you can jar it down with a mallet, then screw in the fuze, plug with white lead, and oil and fix the fuze firmly to its place, and your shell will be sure to fill its mission.
    LEVI E. SHORT,
    Patentee and Proprietor.
    PHILADELPHIA, PA.
    -----


    Hope this helps explain "Greek Fire."

    M. E. Wolf
  9. M E Wolf

    M E Wolf Brigadier General Moderator

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  10. M E Wolf

    M E Wolf Brigadier General Moderator

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    Liquid Fire:

    O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXXV/1 [S# 65]
    CONFEDERATE CORRESPONDENCE, ORDERS, AND RETURNS RELATING TO OPERATIONS IN SOUTH CAROLINA AND FLORIDA, AND ON THE GEORGIA COAST, FROM JANUARY 1 TO FEBRUARY 29, 1864.--#1
    JANUARY 8, 1864.
    Maj. Gen. J. F. GILMER,
    Second in command, Savannah:
    GENERAL: The commanding general wishes to know if some way cannot be devised for destroying the enemy's dock-yards, machine shops, &c., at Scull Creek, either by an expedition specially organized for the purpose or by long-range rifled 32-pounders used as mortars, firing "liquid-fire shells" at from 3 ½ to 4 miles' range.
    Respectfully, your obedient servant,
    T. JORDAN.
    -----
    O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME LII/2 [S# 110]
    Confederate Correspondence, Orders, And Returns Relating To Operations In Southwestern Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, West Florida, And Northern Georgia.--#25
    SENATOBIA, MISS., January 14, 1864.
    General L. POLK,
    Commanding Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana:
    GENERAL: An arrangement can be easily effected to secure four steamers of capacity and speed at any point desired. They can be paid for out of the abundance of cotton in the interior, now of no use to the Confederacy. Anything can be accomplished by negotiation. Every Federal in the western department will sell out to benefit himself.
    [excerpt]
    Captain Floyd, who has been fighting pretty much on his own hook, and has equipped a company of fifty men by preying on the enemy along the river, is a most daring and venturesome officer, with a set of young men ready for anything that can be proposed. He is disconnected from the Blythe and Collins battalion, which is about being turned over to General Forrest, and will join one in the river service. I could get up 1,000 men in the swamp section directly if no interference from conscript officers deranges my operations. Under existing orders the officers of the Conscript Bureau are required to forward everybody for examination. Colonel Patrick, at Grenada, has agreed not to hinder me in any way with his duties unless instructed to do so by Colonel Preston, at Montgomery, to whom he has sent a certificate of my appointment for special service, and asks that those I associate with me and properly enlist be not disturbed. I have written to D. W. Hughes, at Montgomery, who is an old acquaintance, and the inventor of the best breech-loading arrangement for light artillery now in use, to know if his invention can be applied to double shotguns. I can take twelve small howitzers and 800 double shotguns with a few rifles and raise a force in this valley in a short time that will accomplish anything desired, I care not how much, within the next two months. I would use liquid fire-shells for the guns, and no boat could pass me. With breech-loading double shotguns any force of marine cavalry the enemy can penetrate the canebreak with would be destroyed. There is considerable cotton trade carried on with the Federals along the river; but I do not see how it can be prevented. It might be taken advantage of to tame some of the steamers that are a little too wild to come to the shore. Everybody in this section sells cotton. I could not today name any one innocent of trading with the enemy's flag, yet a vast amount of that trade is beneficial to the Confederacy. Very few of these men are friendly enough toward the enemy to treasure up their currency. Nobody wants the greenbacks except for immediate use. Our money is not worth anything in the river counties, for it will not buy a pound of salt or a pair of shoes. If our currency would pass muster, every man in the bottom would prefer it to any other currency. These people have never traded anywhere but on the river. The party that uses the river will secure the trade of the people on the banks, and nothing can be done to change the order of things but whip the Federals away or whip the natives out of those counties. I believe with proper effort <ar110_601> these people can be used to our advantage by setting them apart to fight steamers. They will trade with a steamer today and burn her to-morrow. Captain Floyd secured ammunition through a steamer, and afterward burned the boat at the bank.
    The above suggestions are respectfully submitted to the commanding general of the department.
    JOHN C. KAY,
    [32.] Captain, Commanding River Rangers.
    --------------------------------------------------------------
    Navy O.R.-- Series I--Volume 7 [S# 7]
    North Atlantic Blockading Squadron.
    From March 8 To September 4, 1862. pp. 250-307
    Letter from Lieutenant Badger, U.S. Navy, to Lieutenant Wise, U.S. Navy, advising the use of "liquid fire" to repel boarders on the U. S. S. Monitor.
    U.S. S. ANACOSTIA,
    Rappahannock River, April 27, 1862.
    DEAR SIR: It has occurred to me, from the movements of the Merrimack on her last visit to Hampton Roads, and from other reasons, that the enemy has some plan to draw the Monitor out from under the guns of the fortress, in order to capture her by boarding and towing her up Elizabeth River by her (the Merrimack's) superior power or momentum.
    ]]]]]Suppose half a dozen men were to spring on the Monitor's decks provided with grapnels and chains, and make them fast, just after her two guns had been fired; undoubtedly she could be towed off and they could not help themselves.
    It seems to me that it would not be difficult for them to provide a few men with armor to perform this duty, and with comparative safety, since only musketry could be used against them.
    In such an event it strikes me that the "liquid fire," with which you witnessed an experiment four or five months ago at the navy yard, Washington, would be a good thing to drive them off with. The pipe of a hose thrown out of the small holes in the "dome," or out of the pilot house, would, I think, clear the decks sooner than the heaviest discharge of musketry that could possibly be brought to bear.
    If you think well of this idea, pray call Fox's attention to it. He was present and witnessed the effect of the "liquid fire" on the occasion referred to.
    Very truly, yours,
    O. C. BADGER.
    Lieutenant H. A. WISE, U.S. Navy,
    Ordnance Bureau, Navy Department, Washington.
    -----
    Letter from Lieutenant Wise, U. S. Navy, to Lieutenant Badger, U. S. Navy, responding to his suggestions regarding, the use of "liquid fire."
    BUREAU OF ORDNANCE, NAVY DEPARTMENT,
    Washington City, April 30, 1862.
    DEAR SIR: Your letter(*) of the 27th came to me this a.m.
    With reference to the Monitor, the moment I jumped on board of her after the fight I saw that a steam tug with twenty men could have taken the upper part of her in as many seconds, and perhaps the inside, too, by dropping two or three 12-pounder shrapnel down her little steam pipe; or at all events by choking the turret, and even could that not have been done, it was quite easy to have danced round with the dome, perfectly safe from harm.
    But, indeed, the vessel was not intended to be left alone, and should never be run into if it could be avoided; and then, while in battle, with nimble gunboats as consorts, her decks could be kept clear even were an attempt made to capture her by boarding.
    Now, however, I hear that hot water pipes are arranged so as to scald the assailants when they may dare to set foot on her.
    With respect to that "liquid fire" stuff, which is petroleum, naphtha, and benzine, it might do very well on an emergency, in all save the risk of the fire running down the gratings of the Monitor or the crevices about the turret and setting her going below. Moreover, we have sent to all the big guns in the roads shells filled with Birney's preparation, nearly the same elements as the "liquid fire," which will puzzle the devil himself, even in his own dominions, to put out, should one crack over or into hell.
    Very truly, yours,
    H. A. WISE,
    Assistant Inspector Ordnance.
    Lieutenant O. C. BADGER, U.S. Navy,
    Commanding Steamer Anacostia, Rappahannock River.
    ------------------------------------------------------
    M. E. Wolf
  11. Leah's Choice

    Leah's Choice Cadet

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    Thank you for the links CC and M.E. Very interesting and inspiring story. Whatever the details, it seems that Captain Newton turned his life around, and tried to make amends for a pretty rocky past, and in the process wrote one of the most stirring hymns we've ever heard.
  12. unionblue

    unionblue Brev. Brig. Gen'l

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    Ole,

    What galley did you serve on back then, Roman or Greek? :smile:

    Unionblue
  13. Leah's Choice

    Leah's Choice Cadet

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    M.E. Wolf:

    Sounds like a nasty business, but not as effective as was evidently hoped. Thank you for researching that.
  14. M E Wolf

    M E Wolf Brigadier General Moderator

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    Dear Leah's Choice,

    You are welcome ma'am.

    Respectfully submitted,
    M. E. Wolf
  15. M E Wolf

    M E Wolf Brigadier General Moderator

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    Dear UnionBlue;

    Reference Post #11

    :jawdrop:

    :laugh1:


    M. E. Wolf
    [Still chuckling]
  16. gary

    gary 1st Lieutenant

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    Greek fire was a composition of naptha and other minerals that once lit, could not be extinguished by water. In fact, throwing water on it would cause the fire to spread. It could be placed into jars and catapulted against the enemy or even pumped from siphones (flamethrowers). The Byzantine Greek Navy used it against the Muslims and devastated their fleet with it. The exact ingredients were kept secret lest the infidels use it against them.

    By the nineteenth century, Greek fire was applied to any incendiary. It is noteworthy that a flamethrower was offered to the US Navy in the early part of the century. The Sect. of Navy rejected it and it was forgotten. It was invented again later in the mid nineteenth century, but also not adopted. Flamethrowers as weapons were not used again until the Germans introduced it in WW I. We also had a flamethrowing bayonet for our 1903 Springfield bolt action rifle (30-06). It wasn't meant to burn the enemy, but to blind him so as to give the flame thrower equipped doughboy the advantage in a bayonet fight (heck, shoot 'em, don't let them get within bayonet distance).

    Getting back to the topic of greek fire in the Civil War, Confederate Richard Davidson proposed carpet bombing the Yankee armies and sinking their ships, he would rain greek fire upon the cities of the North and in a week's time, would bring the Union to its knees. I wrote an article on it that was published by The Company of Military Historians. Since its publication, more research has been done and from 20 endnotes it has grown to 30. In its present form, it has been submitted to a major magazine.
  17. ole

    ole Brev. Brig. Gen'l Retired Moderator

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    Ten centuries before my time, Unionblue. My people were still living in trees. Ten centuries later, we had axes and and long ships and were trying to pry your people out of their trees.

    Ole:angel:
  18. ole

    ole Brev. Brig. Gen'l Retired Moderator

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    Thanks, Gary, for shedding more light on Greek Fire. I had thought it may have been a phosphorous-based compound. Quite amazing, isn't it, that they could make naptha all the way back then?

    Ole
  19. Leah's Choice

    Leah's Choice Cadet

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    Three More, Please

    I've been reading an article about the fight between the Monitor and the Merrimac, and I've run into a few more things that are new to me.

    What was it, or is it, that is referred to as The Roads? Paraphrased --- after the battle the Merrimac steamed off to "the Roads." Mentioned twice, capitalized both times so I assume this wasn't referring to a highway or street.

    And what are Rip-Raps?

    Third, was their such a thing as "sing-shots" or could that be a misprint in the article I read?

    Thanks.
  20. cash

    cash Colonel

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    Hampton Roads

    The rip-raps is an artificial island near the mouth of Hampton Roads.

    Don't know about "sing shots."

    Regards,
    Cash
  21. K Hale

    K Hale Colonel Civil War Photo Contest
    Annual Winner

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    "The Roads" would be Hampton Roads, which is not a road at all but a waterway off the Virginia coast, where the James River empties into Chesapeake Bay. I have no idea why it is called "roads." Can anyone enlighten me?

    Ripraps in general are big rocks that are placed on coastlines to stop erosion of the coast by the action of waves. They are also placed out in the water to create islands upon which the engineers then construct a fort. There is also an actual place by that name, I believe it is an island within "the Roads."

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